Part 8 out of 11
'We are a little timid, I think, here in the eastern counties,--a little
wanting in self-confidence. An advocate in the north of England has a
finer scope, because the people like to move counter to authority. A
Lancashire jury will generally be unwilling to do what a judge tells
them. And then Judge Bramber has a peculiar way of telling a jury. If he
has a strong opinion of his own he never leaves the jury in doubt about
it. Some judges are--what I call flabby, Mr. Caldigate. They are a
little afraid of responsibility, and leave the jury and the counsel to
fight it out among them. Sir John did it very well, no doubt;--very
well. He made the best he could of that postage stamp, though I don't
know that it will go for much. The point most in our favour is that
those Australians are a rough lot to look at. The woman has been
drinking, and has lost her good looks,--so that the jurymen won't be
soft about her.' Caldigate, when he heard this, thought of Euphemia
Smith on board the Goldfinder, when she certainly did not drink, when
her personal appearance was certainly such as might touch the heart of
any juryman. Gold and drink together had so changed the woman that he
could hardly persuade himself that she was that forlorn attractive
female whom he had once so nearly loved.
Before he went to bed, Caldigate wrote to his wife as he had done also
on the preceding evening. 'There is to be another long, tedious,
terrible day, and then it may be that I shall be able to write no more.
For your sake, almost more than for my own, I am longing for it to be
over. It would be vain for me to attempt to tell you all that took
place. I do not dare to give you hope which I know may be fallacious.
And yet I feel my own heart somewhat higher than it was when I wrote
last night.' Then he did tell her something of what had taken place,
speaking in high praise of Sir John Joram. 'And now my own, own wife, my
real wife, my beloved one, I have to call you so, perhaps for the last
time for years. If these men shall choose to think that I married that
woman, we shall have to be so parted that it would be better for us to
be in our graves. But even then I will not give up all hope. My father
has promised that the whole colony shall be ransacked till proof be
found of the truth. And then, though I shall have been convicted, I
shall be reinstated in my position as your husband. May God Almighty
bless you, and our boy, till I may come again to claim my wife and my
child without disgrace.'
The old man had made the promise. 'I would go myself,' said he, 'were it
not that Hester will want my support here.' For there had been another
promise made,--that by no entreaty, no guile, no force, should Hester be
taken from Folking to Chesterton.
Early on the third day Judge Bramber began his charge, and in doing so
he told the jury that it would occupy him about three hours. And in
exactly three hours' time he had completed his task. In summing up the
case he certainly was not 'flabby';--so little so, that he left no doubt
on the minds of any who heard him of the verdict at which he had himself
arrived. He went through the evidence of the four chief witnesses very
carefully, and then said that the antecedents of these people, or even
their guilt, if they had been guilty, had nothing to do with the case
except in so far as it might affect the opinion of the jury as to their
veracity. They had been called conspirators. Even though they had
conspired to raise money by threats, than which nothing could be more
abominable,--even though by doing so they should have subjected
themselves to criminal proceedings, and to many penalties,--that would
not lessen the criminality of the accused if such a marriage as that
described had in truth taken place. 'This,' said the judge, 'is so much
a matter of course that I should not insist upon it had it not been
implied that the testimony of these four persons is worth nothing
because they are conspirators. It is for you to judge what their
testimony is worth, and it is for you to remember that they are four
distinct witnesses, all swearing to the same thing.' Then he went into
the question of the money. There could be no doubt that the four persons
had come to England with the purpose of getting money out of the
accused, and that they had succeeded. With their mode of doing
this,--whether criminal or innocent,--the jury had nothing to do, except
as it affected their credit. But they were bound to look to Caldigate's
motive in paying so large a sum. It had been shown that he did not owe
them a shilling, and that when the application for money reached him
from Australia he had refused to give them a shilling. Then, when they
had arrived here in England, accusation was made; and when they had
offered to desert the case if paid the money, then the money was paid.
The prisoner, when paying it, had no doubt intimated to those who
received it that he made no bargain with them as to their going away.
And he had taken a friend with him who had given his evidence in court,
and this friend had manifestly been taken to show that the money was not
secretly paid. The jury would give the prisoner the benefit of all
that,--if there was benefit to be derived from it. But they were bound
to remember, in coming to their verdict, that a very large sum of money
had been paid to the witnesses by the prisoner, which money certainly
was not due to them.
He dwelt, also, at great length on the stamp on the envelope, but
contrived at last to leave a feeling on the minds of those who heard
him, that Sir John had shown the weakness of his case by trusting so
much to such allegations as he had made. 'It has been represented,' said
Judge Bramber, 'that the impression which you have seen of the Sydney
post-office stamp has been fraudulently obtained. Some stronger evidence
should, I think, be shown of this before you believe it. Two clerks from
the London post-office have told you that they believed the impression
to be a false one; but I think they were hardly justified in their
opinion. They founded it on the clearness and cleanness of the
impression; but they both of them acknowledged afterwards that such
clearness and cleanness is simply unusual, and by no means
impossible,--not indeed improbable. But how would it have been if the
envelope had been brought to you without any post-office impression,
simply directed to Mrs. Caldigate, by the man who is alleged to have
made the woman his wife shortly before the envelope was written? Would
it not in that case have been strong evidence? If any fraud were
proved,--such a fraud as would be that of getting some post-office
official falsely to stamp the envelope,--then the stain of perjury would
be there. But it will be for you to consider whether you can find such
stain of perjury merely because the impression on the envelope is clear
When he came to the present condition of Caldigate's wife and child at
Folking, he was very tender in his speech,--but even his tenderness
seemed to turn itself against the accused.
'Of that poor lady I can only speak with that unfeigned respect which I
am sure you all feel. That she was happy in her marriage till this
accusation reached her ears, no one can doubt. That he to whom she was
given in marriage has done his duty by her, treating her with full
affection and confidence, has been proved to us. Who can think that such
a condition of things shall be disturbed, that happiness so perfect is
to be turned to misery and misfortune, without almost an agony of
regret? But not on that account can you be in any way released from your
duty. In this case you are not entitled to think of the happiness or
unhappiness of individuals. You have to confine yourself to the
evidence, and must give your verdict in accordance with that.'
John Caldigate, as he heard the words, told himself at once that the
judge had, in fact, desired the jury to find a verdict against him. Not
a single point had been made in his favour, and every point had been
made to tell against him. The judge had almost said that a man's promise
to marry a woman should be taken as evidence of marriage. But the jury,
at any rate, did not show immediate alacrity in obeying the judge's
behest. They returned once or twice to ask questions; and at three
o'clock Caldigate was allowed to go to his inn, with an intimation that
he must hold himself in readiness to be brought back and hear the
verdict at a moment's notice. 'I wish they would declare it at once,' he
said to his father. 'The suspense is worse than all.'
During the afternoon the matter was discussed very freely throughout the
borough. 'I thought they would have agreed almost at once,' said the
mayor, at about four o'clock, to Mr. Seely, who, at this moment, had
retired to his own office where the great magistrate of the borough was
closeted with him. The mayor had been seated on the bench throughout the
trial, and had taken much interest in the case. 'I never imagined that
there could be much doubt after Judge Bramber's summing up.'
'I hear that there's one man holding out,' said the attorney in a low
'Who is it?' whispered the mayor. The mayor and Mr. Seely were very
'I suppose it's Jones, the tanner at Ely. They say that the Caldigates
have had dealings with his family from generation to generation. I knew
all about it, and when they passed his name, I wondered that Burder
hadn't been sharper.' Mr. Burder was the gentleman who had got up the
prosecution on the part of the Crown.
'It must be something of that kind,' said the mayor. 'Nothing else would
make a jury hesitate after such a charge as that. I suppose he did marry
her.' Mr. Seely shrugged his shoulders. 'I have attended very closely to
the case, and I know I should have been against him on a jury. God bless
my soul! Did any man ever write to a woman as his wife without having
'It has been done, I should think.'
'And that nobody should have been got to say that they weren't man and
'I really have hardly formed an opinion,' said Mr. Seely, still
whispering, 'I am inclined to think that there was probably some
ceremony, and that Caldigate salved his conscience, when he married
Bolton's daughter, by an idea that the ceremony wasn't valid. But
they'll convict him at last. When he told me that he had been up to town
and paid that money, I knew it was all up with him. How can any juryman
believe that a man will pay twenty thousand pounds, which he doesn't
owe, to his sworn enemy, merely on a point of conscience?'
At the same time the old banker was sitting in his room at the bank, and
Robert Bolton was with him. 'There cannot be a doubt of his guilt,' said
'No, no,--not a doubt.'
'But the jury may disagree?'
'What shall we do then?' said the banker.
'There must be another trial. We must go on till we get a verdict.'
'And Hester? What can we do for Hester?'
'She is very obstinate, and I fear we have no power. Even though she is
declared not to be his wife, she can choose her own place of living. If
he is convicted, I think that she would come back. Of course she ought
to come back.'
'Of course, of course.'
'Old Caldigate, too, is very obstinate; but it may be that we should be
able to persuade him. He will know that she ought to be with her
'Her poor mother! Her poor mother! And when he comes out of prison?'
'Her very nature will have been altered by that time,' said the
attorney. 'She will, I trust, have consented before that to take up her
residence under your roof.'
'I shall be dead,' said the old man. 'Disgrace and years together will
have killed me before that time comes.'
The Smirkies were staying at Babington, and the desire for news there
was very intent. Mr. Smirkie was full of thought on the matter, but was
manifestly in favour of a conviction. 'Yes; the poor young woman is very
much to be pitied,' he said, in answer to the squire, who had ventured
to utter a word in favour of Hester. 'A young woman who falls into the
hands of an evil man must always be pitied; but it is to prevent the
evil men from preying upon the weaker sex that examples such as these
are needed. When we think what might have been the case here, in this
house, we have all of us a peculiar reason to be thankful for the
interposition of divine Providence.' Here Mr. Smirkie made a little
gesture of thanksgiving, thanking Heaven for its goodness to his wife in
having given her himself. 'Julia, my love, you have a very peculiar
reason to be thankful, and I trust you are so. Yes,--we must pity the
poor young lady; but it will be well that the offender should be made
subject to the outraged laws of his country.' Mrs. Smirkie, as she
listened to these eloquent words, closed her eyes and hands in token of
her thankfulness for all that Providence had done for her.
If she knew how to compare her condition with that of poor Hester at
this time, she had indeed cause for thankfulness. Hester was alone with
her baby, and with no information but what had been conveyed to her by
her husband's letters. As she read the last of the two she acknowledged
to herself that too probably she would not even see his handwriting
again till the period of his punishment should have expired. And then?
What would come then? Sitting alone, at the open window of her bed-room,
with her boy on her lap, she endeavoured to realise her own position.
She would be a mother, without a husband,--with her bastard child.
However innocent he might be, such would be her position under the law.
It did not suffice that they too should be man and wife as thoroughly as
any whom God had joined together, if twelve men assembled together in a
jury-box should say otherwise. She had told him that she would be
brave;--but how should she be brave in such a condition as this? What
should she do? How should she look forward to the time of his release?
Could anything ever again give her back her husband and make him her own
in the eyes of men? Could anything make men believe that he had always
been her own, and that there had been no flaw? She had been very brave
when they had attempted to confine her, to hold her by force at
Chesterton. Then she had been made strong, had always been comforted, by
opposition. The determination of her purpose to go back had supported
her. But now,--how should it be with her now? and with her boy? and with
The old man was very good, good and eager in her cause, and would let
her live at Folking. But what would they call her? When they wrote to
her from Chesterton how would they address her letters? Never, never
would she soil her fingers by touching a document that called her by any
other name than her own. Yes, her own;--let all the jurymen in all the
counties, let all the judges on the bench, say what they would to the
contrary. Though it should be for all her life,--though there should
never come the day on which they,--they,--the world at large would do
him justice and her, though they should call her by what hard name they
would, still up there, in the courts of her God, she would be his wife.
She would be a pure woman there, and there would her child be without a
stain. And here, here in this world, though she could never more be a
wife in all things, she would be a wife in love, a wife in care, a wife
in obedience, a wife in all godly truth. And though it would never be
possible for her to show her face again among mankind, never for her,
surely the world would be kinder to her boy! They would not begrudge him
his name! And when it should be told how it had come to pass that there
was a blot upon his escutcheon, they would not remind him of his
mother's misery. But, above all, there should be no shade of doubt as to
her husband. 'I know,' she said, speaking aloud, but not knowing that
she spoke aloud, 'I know that he is my husband.' Then there was a knock
at the door. 'Well; yes;--has it come? Do you know?'
No; nothing was known there at that moment, but in another minute all
would be known. The wheels of the old Squire's carriage had been heard
upon the gravel. 'No, ma'am, no; you shall not leave the room,' said the
nurse. 'Stay here and let him come to you.'
'Is he alone?' she asked. But the woman did not know. The wheels of the
carriage had only been heard.
Alas, alas! he was alone. His heart too had been almost broken as he
bore the news home to the wife who was a wife no longer.
'Father!' she said, when she saw him.
'My daughter;--O my daughter!' And then, with their hands clasped
together, they sat speechless and alone, while the news was spread
through the household which the old man did not dare to tell to his
It was very slowly that the actual tidings reached her ears. Mr.
Caldigate, when he tried to tell them, found that the power of words had
left him. Old as he was, and prone to cynic indifference as he had shown
himself, he was affected almost like a young girl. He sobbed
convulsively as he hung over her, embracing her. 'My daughter!' he said,
'my daughter! my daughter!'
But at last it was all told. Caldigate had been declared guilty, and the
judge had condemned him to be confined to prison for two years. Judge
Bramber had told him that, in his opinion, the jury could have found no
other verdict; but he went on to say that, looking for some excuse for
so terrible a deed as that which had been done,--so terrible for that
poor lady who was now left nameless with a nameless infant,--he could
imagine that the marriage, though legally solemnised, had nevertheless
been so deficient in the appearances of solemnity as to have imbued the
husband with the idea that it had not meant all that a marriage would
have meant if celebrated in a church and with more of the outward
appurtenances of religion. On that account he refrained from inflicting
a severer penalty.
After the Verdict
When the verdict was given, Caldigate was at once marched round into the
dock, having hitherto been allowed to sit in front of the dock between
Mr. Seely and his father. But, standing in the dock, he heard the
sentence pronounced upon him. 'I never married the woman, my lord,' he
said, in a loud voice. But what he said could be of no avail. And then
men looked at him as he disappeared with the jailers down the steps
leading to regions below, and away to his prison, and they knew that he
would no more be seen or heard of for two years. He had vanished. But
there was the lady who was not his wife out at Folking,--the lady whom
the jury had declared not to be his wife. What would become of her?
There was an old gentleman there in the court who had known Mr.
Caldigate for many years,--one Mr. Ryder, who had been himself a
practising barrister but had now retired. In those days they seldom saw
each other; but, nevertheless, they were friends. 'Caldigate,' he said,
'you had better let her go back to her own people.'
'She shall stay with me,' he replied.
'Better not. Believe me, she had better not. If so, how will it be with
her when he is released? The two years will soon go by, and then she
will be in his house. If that woman should die, he might marry her,--but
till then she had better be with her own people.'
'She shall stay with me,' the old man said again, repeating the words
angrily, and shaking his head. He was so stunned by the blow that he
could not argue the matter, but he knew that he had made the promise,
and that he was resolved to abide by it.
She had better go back to her own people! All the world was saying it.
She had no husband now. Everybody would respect her misfortune.
Everybody would acknowledge her innocence. All would sympathise with
her. All would love her. But she must go back to her own people. There
was not a dissentient voice. 'Of course she must go back to you now,'
Nicholas Bolton said to her father, and Nicholas Bolton seldom
interfered in anything. 'The poor lady will of course be restored to her
family,' the judge had said in private to his marshal, and the marshal
had of course made known what the judge had said. On the next morning
there came a letter from William Bolton to Robert. 'Of course Hester
must come back now. Nothing else is possible.' Everybody decided that
she must come back. It was a matter which admitted of no doubt. But how
was she to be brought to Chesterton?
None of them who decided with so much confidence as to her future,
understood her ideas of her position as a wife. 'I am bone of his bone
and flesh of his flesh,' she said to herself, 'made so by a sacrament
which no jury can touch. What matters what the people say? They may make
me more unhappy than I am. They may kill me by their cruelty. But they
cannot make me believe myself not to be his wife. And while I am his
wife, I will obey him, and him only.'
What she called 'their cruelty' manifested itself very soon. The first
person who came to her was Mrs. Robert Bolton, and her visit was made on
the day after the verdict. When Hester sent down word begging to be
permitted in her misery to decline to see even her sister-in-law, Mrs.
Robert sent her up a word or two written in pencil--'My darling, whom
have you nearer? Who loves you better than I?' Then the wretched one
gave way, and allowed her brother's wife to be brought to her. She was
already dressed from head to foot in black, and her baby was with her.
The arguments which Mrs. Robert Bolton used need not be repeated, but it
may be said that the words she used were so tender, and that they were
urged with so much love, so much sympathy, and so much personal
approval, that Hester's heart was touched. 'But he is my husband,'
Hester said. 'The judge cannot alter it; he is my husband.'
'I will not say a word to the contrary. But the law has separated you,
and you should obey the law. You should not even eat his bread now,
because--because----. Oh, Hester, you understand.'
'I do understand,' she said, rising to her feet in her energy, 'and I
will eat his bread though it be hard, and I will drink of his cup
though it be bitter. His bread and his cup shall be mine, and none other
shall be mine. I do understand. I know that these wicked people have
blasted my life. I know that I can be nothing to him now. But his child
shall never be made to think that his mother had condemned his father.
Yes, Margaret,' she said again, 'I do love you, and I do trust you, and
I know that you love me. But you do not love him; you do not believe in
him. If they came to you and took Robert away, would you go and live
with other people? I do love papa and mamma. But this is his house, and
he bids me stay here. The very clothes which I wear are his clothes I am
his; and though they were to cut me apart from him, still I should
belong to him. No,--I will not go to mamma. Of course I have forgiven
her, because she meant it for the best; but I will never go back to
Then there came letters from the mother, one letter hot upon the other,
all appealing to those texts in Scripture by which the laws of nations
are supposed to be supported. 'Give unto Caesar the things which are
Caesar's.' It was for the law to declare who were and who were not man
and wife, and in this matter the law had declared. After this how could
she doubt? Or how could she hesitate as to tearing herself away from the
belongings of the man who certainly was not her husband? And there were
dreadful words in these letters which added much to the agony of her who
received them,--words which were used in order that their strength might
prevail. But they had no strength to convert, though they had strength
to afflict. Then Mrs. Bolton, who in her anxiety was ready to submit
herself to any personal discomfort, prepared to go to Folking. But
Hester sent back word that, in her present condition, she would see
nobody,--not even her mother.
But it was not only from the family of the Boltons that these
applications and entreaties came. Even Mr. Seely took upon himself to
tell Mr. Caldigate that under existing circumstances Hester should not
be detained at Folking.
'I do not know that either she or I want advice in the matter,' Mr.
Caldigate replied. But as a stone will be worn hollow in time by the
droppings of many waters, so was it thought that if all Cambridge would
continue firm in its purpose, then this stone might at last be made to
yield. The world was so anxious that it resolved among itself that it
would submit to any amount of snubbing in carrying out its object. Even
the mayor wrote. 'Dear Mr. Caldigate greatly as I object to all
interference in families, I think myself bound to appeal to you as to
the unfortunate condition of that young lady from Chesterton.' Then
followed all the arguments, and some of the texts,--both of which were
gradually becoming hackneyed in the matter. Mr. Caldigate's answer to
this was very characteristic: 'Dear Mr. Mayor, if you have an objection
to interfere in families, why do you do it?' The mayor took the rebuke
with placid good-humour, feeling that his little drop might also have
done something towards hollowing the stone.
But of all the counsellors, perhaps Mr. Smirkie was the most zealous and
the most trusting. He felt himself to be bound in a peculiar manner to
Folking,--by double ties. Was not the clergyman of the parish the
brother of his dear departed one? And with whom better could he hold
sweet counsel? And then that second dear one, who had just been
vouchsafed to him,--had she not as it were by a miracle been rescued
from the fate into which the other poor lady had fallen, and obtained
her present thoroughly satisfactory position? Mr. Smirkie was a
clergyman who understood it to be his duty to be urgent for the good
cause, in season and out of season, and who always did his duty. So he
travelled over to Utterden and discussed the matter at great length with
Mr. Bromley. 'I do believe in my heart,' said Mr. Bromley, 'that the
verdict is wrong.' But Mr. Smirkie, with much eloquence, averred that
that had nothing to do with the question. Mr. Bromley opened his eyes
very wide. 'Nothing at all,' said Mr. Smirkie. 'It is the verdict of the
jury, confirmed by the judge, and the verdict itself dissolves the
marriage. Whether the verdict be wrong or right, that marriage ceremony
is null and void. They are not man and wife;--not now, even if they ever
were. Of course you are aware of that.'
Mr. Smirkie was altogether wrong in his law. Such men generally are. Mr.
Bromley in vain endeavoured to point out to him that the verdict could
have no such power as was here claimed for it, and that if any claim was
to be brought up hereafter as to the legitimacy of the child, the fact
of the verdict could only be used as evidence, and that that evidence
would or would not be regarded as true by another jury, according to the
views which that other jury might take. Mr. Smirkie would only repeat
his statements with increased solemnity,--'That marriage is no marriage.
That poor lady is not Mrs. John Caldigate. She is Miss Hester Bolton,
and, therefore, every breath of air which she draws under that roof is a
sin.' As he said this out upon the dike-side he looked about him with
manifest regret that he had no other audience than his brother-in-law.
And at last, after much persevering assiduity, Mr. Smirkie succeeded in
reaching Mr. Caldigate himself, and expressed himself with boldness. He
was a man who had at any rate the courage of his opinions. 'You have to
think of her future life in this world and in the next,' he said. 'And
in the next,' he repeated with emphasis, when Mr. Caldigate paused.
'As to what will affect her happiness in this world, sir,' said the old
man very gravely, 'I think you can hardly be a judge.'
'Good repute,' suggested the clergyman.
'Has she done anything that ought to lessen the fair fame of a woman in
the estimation of other women? And as to the next world, in the rewards
and punishments of which you presume it to be your peculiar duty to
deal, has she done anything which you think will subject her to the
special wrath of an offended Deity?' This question he asked with a
vehemence of voice which astounded his companion. 'She has loved her
husband with a peculiar love,' he continued. 'She has believed herself
to be joined to him by ties which you shall call romantic, if you
will,--superstitious, if you will.'
'I hope not,--I hope not,' said Mr. Smirkie, holding up both his hands,
not at all understanding the old man's meaning, but intending to express
horror at 'superstition,' which he supposed to be a peculiar attribute
of the Roman Catholic branch of the Christian Church. 'Not that I hope.'
'I cannot fathom, and you, apparently, cannot at all understand, her
idea of the sanctity of the marriage vow. But if you knew anything about
her, I think you would refrain from threatening her with divine wrath;
and as you know nothing about her, I regard such threats, coming from
you, as impertinent unmanly, inhuman, and blasphemous.' Mr. Caldigate
had commenced this conversation, though vehemently, still in so
argumentative a manner, and in his allusions to the lady's romantic and
superstitious ideas had seemed to yield so much, that the terrible
vigour of his last words struck the poor clergyman almost to the ground.
One epithet came out after another, very clearly spoken, with a pause
between each of them; and the speaker, as he uttered them, looked his
victim close in the face. Then he walked slowly away, leaving Mr.
Smirkie fixed to the ground. What had he done? He had simply made a
gentle allusion to the next world, as, surely, it was his duty to do.
Whether this old pagan did or did not believe in a next world himself,
he must at any rate be aware that it is the peculiar business of a
clergyman to make such references. As to 'impertinent' and 'unmanly,' he
would let them go by. He was, he conceived, bound by his calling to be
what people called impertinent, and manliness had nothing to do with
him. But 'inhuman' and blasphemous!' Why had he come all the way over
from Plum-cum-Pippins, at considerable personal expense, except in
furtherance of that highest humanity which concerns itself with
eternity? And as for blasphemy, it might, he thought, as well be said
that he was blasphemous whenever he read the Bible aloud to his flock!
His first idea was to write an exhaustive letter on the subject to Mr.
Caldigate, in which he would invite that gentleman to recall the
offensive words. But as he drove his gig into the parsonage yard at
Plum-cum-Pippins, he made up his mind that this, too, was among the
things which a Christian minister should bear with patience.
But the dropping water always does hollow the stone,--hollow it a little
though the impression may not be visible to the naked eye. Even when
rising in his wrath, Mr. Caldigate had crushed the clergyman by the
violence of his language,--having been excited to anger chiefly by the
thick-headedness of the man in not having understood the rebuke intended
to be conveyed by his earlier and gentler words,--even when leaving the
man, with a full conviction that the man was crushed, the old Squire was
aware that he, the stone, was being gradually hollowed. Hester was now
very dear to him. From the first she had suited his ideas of a wife for
his son. And her constancy in her misery had wound itself into his
heart. He quite understood that her welfare should now be his great
care. There was no one else from whom she would listen to a word of
advice. From her husband, whose slightest word would have been a law to
her, no word could now come. From her own family she was entirely
estranged, having been taught to regard them simply as enemies in this
matter. She loved her mother; but in this matter her mother was her
declared enemy. His voice, and his voice alone, could now reach her
ears. As to that great hereafter to which the clergyman had so
flippantly alluded, he was content to leave that to herself. Much as he
differed from her as to details of a creed, he felt sure that she was
safe there. To his thinking, she was the purest human being that had
ever come beneath his notice. Whatever portion of bliss there may be for
mankind in a life after this life, the fullest portion of that bliss
would be hers, whether by reason of her creed or in spite of it.
Accustomed to think much of things, it was thus that he thought of her
in reference to the world to come. But as to this world, he was not
quite so sure. If she could die and have that other bliss at once, that
would be best,--only for the child, only for the child! But he did
doubt. Would it do for her to ignore that verdict altogether, when his
son should be released from jail, and be to him as though there had been
no verdict? Would not the finger of scorn be pointed at her;--and, as he
thought of it,--possibly at future children? Might it not be better for
her to bow to the cruelty of Fate, and consent to be apart from him at
any rate while that woman should be alive? And again, if such would be
better, then was it not clear that no time should be lost in beginning
that new life? If at last it should be ruled that she must go back to
her mother, it would certainly be well that she should do so now, at
once, so that people might know that she had yielded to the verdict. In
this way the stone was hollowed--though the hollowing had not been made
visible to the naked eye of Mr. Smirkie.
He was a man whose conscience did not easily let him rest when he
believed that a duty was incumbent on him. It was his duty now, he
thought, not to bid her go, not to advise her to go,--but to put before
her what reasons there might be for her going.
'I am telling you,' he said, 'what other people say.'
'I do not regard what other people say.'
'That might be possible for a man, Hester, but a woman has to regard
what the world says. You are young, and may have a long life before you.
We cannot hide from ourselves the fact that a most terrible misfortune
has fallen upon you, altogether undeserved but very grievous.'
'God, when he gave me my husband,' she replied, 'did me more good than
any man can do me harm by taking him away. I never cease to tell myself
that the blessing is greater than the misfortune.'
'But, my dearest----'
'I know it all, father. I know what you would tell me. If I live here
after he comes out of prison people will say that I am his mistress.'
'Not that, not that,' he cried, unable to bear the contumely of the
word, even from her lips.
'Yes, father; that is what you mean. That is what they all mean. That is
what mamma means, and Margaret. Let them call me what they will. It is
not what they call me, but what I am. It is bad for a woman to have evil
said of her, but it is worse for her to do evil. It is your house, and
you, of course, can bid me go.'
'I will never do that.'
'But unless I am turned out homeless on to the roads, I will stay here
where he left me. I have only one sure way of doing right, and that is
to obey him as closely as I can. He cannot order me now, but he has left
his orders. He has told me to remain under this roof, and to call myself
by his name, and in no way to derogate from my own honour as his wife.
By God's help I will do as he bids me. Nothing that any of them can say
shall turn me an inch from the way he has pointed out. You are good to
'I will try to be good to you.'
'You are so good to me that I can hardly understand your goodness.
Trusting to that, I will wait here till he shall come again and tell me
where and how I am to live.'
After that the old Squire made no further attempt in the same direction,
finding that no slightest hollow had been made on that other stone.
The Boltons Are Much Troubled
The condition of the inhabitants of Puritan Grange during the six weeks
immediately after the verdict was very sad indeed. I have described
badly the character of the lady living there, if I have induced my
readers to think that her heart was hardened against her daughter. She
was a woman of strong convictions and bitter prejudices; but her heart
was soft enough. When she married, circumstances had separated her
widely from her own family, in which she had never known either a
brother or a sister; and the burden of her marriage with an old man had
been brightened to her by the possession of an only child,--of one
daughter, who had been the lamp of her life, the solitary delight of her
heart, the single relief to the otherwise solitary tedium of her
monotonous existence. She had, indeed attended to the religious training
of her girl with constant care;--but the yearnings of her maternal heart
had softened even her religion, so that the laws, and dogmas, and texts,
and exercises by which her husband was oppressed, and her servants
afflicted, had been made lighter for Hester,--sometimes not without
pangs of conscience on the part of the self-convicted parent. She had
known, as well as other mothers, how to gloat over the sweet charms of
the one thing which in all the world had been quite her own. She had
revelled in kisses and soft touches. Her Hester's garments had been a
delight to her, till she had taught herself to think that though
sackcloth and ashes were the proper wear for herself and her husband,
nothing was too soft, too silken, too delicate for her little girl. The
roses in the garden, and the goldfish in the bowl, and the pet spaniel,
had been there because such surroundings had been needed for the
joyousness of her girl. And the theological hardness of the literature
of the house had been somewhat mitigated as Hester grew into reading, so
that Watt was occasionally relieved by Wordsworth, and Thomson's
'Seasons' was alternated with George Withers's 'Hallelujah.'
Then had come, first the idea of the marriage, and, immediately
consequent upon the idea, the marriage itself. The story of that has
been told, but the reader has perhaps hardly been made to understand the
utter bereavement which it brought on the mother. It is natural that the
adult bird should delight to leave the family nest, and that the mother
bird should have its heart-strings torn by the separation. It must be
so, alas! even when the divulsions are made in the happiest manner. But
here the tearing away had nothing in it to reconcile the mother. She was
suddenly told that her daughter was to be no longer her own. Her
step-son had interfered and her husband had become powerful over her
with a sudden obstinacy. She had had no hand in the choice. She would
fain have postponed any choice, and would then fain have herself made
the choice. But a man was brought who was distasteful to her at all
points, and she was told that that man was to have her daughter! He was
thoroughly distasteful He had been a spendthrift and a gambler;--then a
seeker after gold in wild, godless countries, and, to her thinking, not
at all the better because he had been a successful seeker. She believed
the man to be an atheist. She was told that his father was an infidel,
and was ready to believe the worst of the son. And yet in this terrible
emergency she was powerless. The girl was allowed to see the man, and
declared almost at once that she would transfer herself from her
mother's keeping to the keeping of this wicked one! She was transferred,
and the mother had been left alone.
Then came the blow,--very quickly, the blow which, as she now told
herself morning, noon, and night, was no worse than she had expected.
Another woman claimed the man as her husband, and so claimed him that
the world all around her had declared that the claim would be made good.
And the man himself had owned enough to make him unfit,--as she
thought,--to have the custody of any honest woman. Then she acknowledged
to herself the full weight of the misfortune that had fallen upon
them,--the misfortune which never would have fallen upon them had they
listened to her counsel,--and she had immediately put her shoulders to
the wheel with the object of rescuing her child from the perils, from
the sin, from the degradation of her position. And could she have
rescued her, could she have induced her daughter to remain at Puritan
Grange, there would even then have been consolation. It was one of the
tenets of her life,--the strongest, perhaps, of all those doctrines on
which she built her faith,--that this world is a world of woe; that
wailing and suffering, if not gnashing of teeth, is and should be the
condition of mankind preparatory to eternal bliss. For eternal bliss
there could, she thought, be no other preparation She did not want to be
happy here, or to have those happy around her whom she loved. She had
stumbled and gone astray,--she told herself hourly now that she had
stumbled and gone astray,--in preparing those roses and ribbons, and
other lightnesses for her young girl. It should have been all sackcloth
and ashes. Had it been all sackcloth and ashes there would not have been
this terrible fall. But if the loved one would now come back to
sackcloth and ashes,--if she would assent to the blackness of religious
asceticism, to penitence and theological gloom, and would lead the life
of the godly but comfortless here in order that she might insure the
glories and joys of the future life, then there might be
consolation;--then it might be felt that this tribulation had been a
precious balm by which an erring soul had been brought back to its due
But Wordsworth and Thomson, though upon the whole moral poets, had done
their work. Or, if not done altogether by them, the work had been done
by the latitude which had admitted them. So that the young wife, when
she found herself breathing the free air with which her husband
surrounded her, was able to burst asunder the remnants of those cords of
fanaticism with which her mother had endeavoured to constrain her. She
looked abroad, and soon taught herself to feel that the world was bright
and merry, that this mortal life was by no means necessarily a place of
gloom, and the companionship of the man to whom Providence had allotted
her was to her so happy, so enjoyable, so sufficient, that she found
herself to have escaped from a dark prison and to be roaming among
shrubs and flowers, and running waters, which were ever green, which
never faded, and the music of which was always in her ears. When the
first tidings of Euphemia Smith came to Folking she was in all her
thoughts and theories of life poles asunder from her mother. There might
be suffering and tribulation,--suffering even to death. But her idea of
the manner in which the suffering should be endured and death awaited
was altogether opposed to that which was hot within her mother's bosom.
But not the less did the mother still pray, still struggle, and still
hope. They, neither of them, quite understood each other, but the mother
did not at all understand the daughter. She, the mother, knew what the
verdict had been, and was taught to believe that by that verdict the
very ceremony of her daughter's marriage had been rendered null and
void. It was in vain that the truth of the matter came to her from
Robert Bolton, diluted through the vague explanations of her husband.
'It does not alter the marriage, Robert says.' So it was that the old
man told his tale, not perfectly understanding, not even quite
believing, what his son had told him.
'How can he dare to say so?' demanded the indignant mother of the
injured woman. 'Not alter the marriage when the jury have declared that
the other woman is his wife! In the eyes of God she is not his wife.
That cannot be imputed as sin to her,--not that,--because she did it not
knowing. She, poor innocent, was betrayed. But now that she knows it,
every mouthful that she eats of his bread is a sin.'
'It is the old man's bread,' said this older man, weakly.
'What matter? It is the bread of adultery.' It may certainly be said
that at this time Mrs. Bolton herself would have been relieved from none
of her sufferings by any new evidence which would have shown that
Crinkett and the others had sworn falsely. Though she loved her daughter
dearly, though her daughter's misery made her miserable, yet she did not
wish to restore the husband to the wife. Any allusion to a possibility
that the verdict had been a mistaken verdict was distasteful to her. Her
own original opinion respecting Caldigate had been made good by the
verdict. The verdict had proved her to be right, and her husband with
all his sons to have been wrong. The triumph had been very dark to her;
but still it had been a triumph. It was to her an established fact that
John Caldigate was not her daughter's husband and therefore she was
anxious, not to rehabilitate her daughter's position, but to receive her
own miserable child once more beneath the shelter of her own wing. That
they two might pray together, struggle together, together wear their
sackcloth and ashes, and together console themselves with their hopes of
eternal joys, while they shuddered, not altogether uncomfortably, at
the torments prepared for others,--this was now the only outlook in
which she could find a gleam of satisfaction; and she was so assured of
the reasonableness of her wishes, so convinced that the house of her
parents was now the only house in which Hester could live without
running counter to the precepts of her own religion, and counter also to
the rules of the wicked outside world, that she could not bring herself
to believe but that she would succeed at last. Merely to ask her child
to come, to repeat the invitation, and then to take a refusal, was by no
means sufficient for her energy. She had failed grievously when she had
endeavoured to make her daughter a prisoner at the Grange. After such an
attempt as that, it could hardly be thought that ordinary invitations
would be efficacious. But when that attempt had been made, it was
possible that Hester should justify herself by the law. According to law
she had then been Caldigate's wife. There had been some ground for her
to stand upon as a wife, and as a wife she had stood upon it very
firmly. But now there was not an inch of ground. The man had been
convicted as a bigamist, and the other woman, the first woman, had been
proved to be his wife. Mrs. Bolton had got it into her head that the two
had been dissevered as though by some supernal power; and no explanation
to the contrary, brought to her by her husband from Robert, had any
power of shaking her conviction. It was manifest to all men and to all
women, that she who had been seduced, betrayed, and sacrificed should
now return with her innocent babe to the protection of her father's
roof; and no stone must be left unturned till the unfortunate one had
been made to understand her duty.
The old banker in these days had not a good time, nor, indeed, had the
Boltons generally. Mrs. Bolton, though prone to grasp at power on every
side, was apt, like some other women who are equally grasping, to
expect almost omnipotence from the men around her when she was desirous
that something should be done by them in accordance with her own
bidding. Knowing her husband to be weak from age and sorrow, she could
still jeer at him because he was not abnormally strong; and though her
intercourse with his sons and their families was now scanty and
infrequent, still by a word here and a line there she could make her
reproaches felt by them all. Robert, who saw his father every day, heard
very much of them. Daniel was often stung, and even Nicholas. And the
reproaches reached as far as William, the barrister up in London.
'I am sure I don't know what we can do,' said the miserable father,
sitting huddled up in his arm-chair one evening towards the end of
August. It was very hot, but the windows were closed because he could
not bear a draught, and he was somewhat impatiently waiting for the hour
of prayers which were antecedent to bed, where he could be silent even
if he could not sleep.
'There are five of you. One should be at the house every day to tell her
of her duty.'
'I couldn't go.'
'They could go,--if they cared. If they cared they would go. They are
'Mr. Caldigate would not let them enter the house,' said the old man.
'Do you mean that he would separate her from her brother and her
'Not if she wished to see them. She is her own mistress, and he will
abet her in whatever she may choose to do. That is what Robert says.'
'And what Robert says is to be law?'
'He knows what he is talking about.' Mr. Bolton as he said this shook
his head angrily, because he was fatigued.
'And he is to be your guide even when your daughter's soul is in
jeopardy?' This was the line of argument in reference to which Mr.
Bolton always felt himself to be as weak as water before his wife. He
did not dare to rebel against her religious supremacy, not simply
because he was a weak old man in presence of a strong woman, but from
fear of denunciation. He, too, believed her creed, though he was made
miserable by her constant adherence to it. He believed, and would fain
have let that suffice. She believed, and endeavoured to live up to her
belief. And so it came to pass that when she spoke to him of his own
soul, of the souls of those who were dear to him, or even of souls in
general, he was frightened and paralysed. He had more than once
attempted to reply with worldly arguments, but had suffered so much in
the encounter that he had learned to abstain. 'I cannot believe that she
would refuse to see us. I shall go myself; but if we all went we should
surely persuade her.' In answer to this the poor man only groaned, till
the coming in of the old servant to arrange the chairs and put the big
Bible on the table relieved him from something of his misery.
'I certainly will not interfere,' Robert Bolton said to his father on
the next morning. 'I will not go to Folking, because I am sure that I
should do no good. Hester, no doubt, would be better at your
house,--much better. There is nothing I would not do to get her back
from the Caldigates altogether,--if there was a chance of success. But
we have no power;--none whatever.'
'No power at all,' said the banker, shaking his head, and feeling some
satisfaction at the possession of an intelligible word which he could
quote to his wife.
'She is controller of her own actions as completely as are you and I. We
have already seen how inefficacious with her are all attempts at
persuasion. And she knows her position. If he were out of prison
to-morrow he would be her husband.'
'But he has another wife.'
'Of that the civil law knows nothing. If money were coming to her he
could claim it, and the verdict against him would only be evidence, to
be taken for what it was worth. It would have been all very well had she
wished to sever herself from him; but as she is determined not to do so,
any interference would be useless.' The question as to the marriage or
no marriage was not made quite clear to the banker's mind, but he did
understand that neither he, nor his wife, nor his sons had 'any power,'
and of that argument he was determined to make use.
William, the barrister in London, was induced to write a letter, a very
lengthy and elaborate epistle having come from Mrs. Bolton to his wife,
in which the religious duty of all the Boltons was set forth in strong
language, and in which he was incited to do something. It was almost the
first letter which Mrs. William Bolton had ever received from her
step-mother, whatever trifling correspondence there might have been
between them having been of no consequence. They, too, felt that it
would be better that Hester should return to her old home, but felt also
that they had no power. 'Of course, she won't,' said Mrs. William.
'She has a will of her own,' said the barrister.
'Why should she? Think of the gloom of that home at Chesterton, and her
absolute independence at Folking. No doubt it would be better. The
position is so frightful that even the gloom would be better. But she
won't. We all know that.'
The barrister, however, feeling that it would be better, thought that he
should perform his duty by expressing his opinion, and wrote a letter to
Hester, which was intended to be if possible persuasive;--and this was
'DEAR WILLIAM,--If you were carried away to prison on some horrible
false accusation, would Fanny go away from you, and desert your
house and your affairs, and return to her parents? You ask her, and
ask her whether she would believe anything that anybody could say
against you. If they told her that her children were nameless, would
she agree to make them so by giving up your name? Wouldn't she cling
to you the more, the more all the world was against you?' ('I
would,' said Fanny, with tearful energy. 'Fanny' was, of course,
Mrs. William Bolton, and was the happy mother of five nearly
grown-up sons and daughters, and certainly stood in no peril as to
her own or their possession of the name of Bolton. The letter was
being read aloud to her by her husband, whose mind was also stirred
in his sister's favour by the nature of the arguments used.) 'If
so,' continued the writer, 'why shouldn't I be the same? I don't
believe a word the people said. I am sure I am his wife. And as,
when he was taken away from me, he left a house for his wife and
child to live in, I shall continue to live in it.
'All the same, I know you mean to be good to me. Give my best love
to Fanny, and believe me your affectionate sister,
In every letter and stroke of the name as she wrote it there was an
assertion that she claimed it as her own, and that she was not ashamed
'Upon my word,' said Mrs. William Bolton, through her tears, 'I am
beginning to think that she is almost right.' There was so much of
conjugal proper feeling in this that the husband could only kiss his
wife and leave her without further argument on the matter.
'No power at all; none whatever,' the banker said, when he was next
compelled to carry on the conversation. This was immediately upon his
return home from Cambridge, for his wife never allowed the subject to be
forgotten or set aside. Every afternoon and every evening it was being
discussed at all hours not devoted to prayers, and every morning it was
renewed at the breakfast-table.
'That comes from Robert.' Mr. Bolton was not able to deny the assertion.
'What does he mean by "no power"?'
'We can't make her do it. The magistrates can't interfere.'
'Magistrates! Has it been by the interference of magistrates that men
have succeeded in doing great things? Was it by order from the
magistrates that the lessons of Christ have been taught over all the
world? Is there no such thing as persuasion? Has truth no power? Is she
more deaf to argument and eloquence than another?'
'She is very deaf, I think,' said the father, doubting his own
'It is because no one has endeavoured to awaken her by burning words to
a true sense of her situation When she said this she must surely have
forgotten much that had occurred during those weary hours which had been
passed by her and her daughter outside there in the hall. 'No power!'
she repeated. 'It is the answer always made by those who are too sleepy
to do the Lord's work. It was because men said that they had no power
that the grain fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth. It
is that aversion to face difficulties which causes the broad path to be
crowded with victims. I, at any rate, will go. I may have no power, but
I will make the attempt.'
Soon after that she did make the attempt. Mr. Bolton, though he was
assured by Robert that such an attempt would produce no result, could
not interfere to prevent it. Had he been far stronger than he was in his
own house, he could hardly have forbidden the mother to visit the
daughter. Hester had sent word to say that she did not wish to see even
her mother. But this had been immediately after the verdict, when she
was crushed and almost annihilated by her misery. Some weeks had now
passed by, and it could not be that she would refuse to admit the
visitor, when such a visitor knocked at her door. They had loved each
other as mothers and daughters do love when there is no rival in the
affection,--when each has no one else to love. There never had been a
more obedient child, or a more loving parent. Much, no doubt, had
happened since to estrange the daughter from the mother. A husband had
been given to her who was more to her than any parent,--as a husband
should be. And then there had been that terrible opposition, that
struggle, that battle in the hall. But the mother's love had never waned
because of that. She was sure that her child would not refuse to see
So the fly was ordered to take her out to Folking, and on the morning
fixed she dressed herself in her blackest black. She always wore brown
or black,--brown being the colour suitable for the sober and sad
domesticities of her week-days, which on ceremonies and Sabbath was
changed for a more solemn black. But in her wardrobe there were two such
gowns, one of which was apparently blacker than the other, nearer to a
guise of widowhood,--more fit, at any rate, for general funereal
obsequies. There are women who seem always to be burying someone; and
Mrs. Bolton, as she went forth to visit her daughter, was fit to bury
any one short of her husband.
It was a hot day in August, and the fly travelled along the dusty road
very slowly. She had intended to reach Folking at twelve, so that her
interview might be over and that she might return without the need of
eating. There is always some idea of festivity connected with food eaten
at a friend's table, and she did not wish to be festive. She was, too,
most unwilling to partake of John Caldigate's bread. But she did not
reach the house till one, and when she knocked at the door Hester's
modest lunch was about to be put upon the table.
There was considerable confusion when the servant saw Mrs. Bolton
standing in the doorway. It was quite understood by everyone at Folking
that for the present there was to be no intercourse between the Boltons
and the Caldigates. It was understood that there should be no visitors
of any kind at Folking, and it had been thought that Mr. Smirkie had
forced an entrance in an impertinent manner. But yet it was not possible
to send Mrs. Bolton from her own daughter's door with a mere 'not at
home.' Of course she was shown in,--and was taken to the parlour, in
which the lunch was prepared, while word was taken up to Hester
announcing that her mother was there.
Mr. Caldigate was in the house,--in his own book-room, as it used to be
called,--and Hester went to him first. 'Mamma is here,--in the
'I long to see mamma.'
'Of course you do.'
'But she will want me to go away with her.'
'She cannot take you unless you choose to go.'
'But she will speak of nothing else. I know it. I wish she had not
'Surely, Hester, you can make her understand that your mind is made up.'
'Yes, I shall do that. I must do that. But, father, it will be very
painful. You do not know what things she can say. It nearly killed me
when I was at the Grange. You will not see her, I suppose?'
'If you wish it, I will. She will not care to see me; and as things are
at present, what room is there for friendship?'
'You will come if I send for you?'
'Certainly. If you send for me I will come at once.'
Then she crept slowly out of the room, and very slowly and very silently
made her way to the parlour-door. Though she was of a strong nature,
unusually strong of heart and fixed of purpose, now her heart misgave
her. That terrible struggle, with all its incidents of weariness and
agony, was present to her mind. Her mother could not turn the lock on
her now; but, as she had said, it would be very dreadful. Her mother
would say words to her which would go through her like swords. Then she
opened the door, and for a moment there was the sweetness of an embrace.
There was a prolonged tenderness in the kiss which, even to Mrs. Bolton,
had a charm for the moment to soften her spirit. 'Oh, mamma; my own
'Yes, mamma;--every day when I pray for you I tell myself that I am
still your child,--I do.'
'My only one! my only one!--all that I have!' Then again they were in
each other's arms. Yet, when they had last met, one had been the jailer,
and the other the prisoner; and they had fought it out between them with
a determined obstinacy which at moments had almost amounted to hatred.
But now the very memory of these sad hours increased their tenderness.
'Hester, through it all, do you not know that my heart yearns for you
day and night?--that in my prayers I am always remembering you? that my
dreams are happy because you are with me? that I am ever longing for
you as Ruth longed for Naomi? I am as Rachel weeping for her children,
who would not be comforted because they are not. Day and night my
heart-strings are torn asunder because my eyes behold you not.'
It was true,--and the daughter knew it to be true. But what could be
done? There had grown up something for her, holier, greater, more
absorbing even than a mother's love. Happily for most young wives,
though the new tie may surmount the old one, it does not crush it or
smother it. The mother retains a diminished hold, and knowing what
nature has intended is content. She, too, with some subsidiary worship,
kneels at the new altar, and all is well. But here, though there was
abundant love, there was no sympathy. The cause of discord was ever
present to them both. Unless John Caldigate was acknowledged to be a
fitting husband, not even the mother could be received with a full
welcome. And unless John Caldigate were repudiated, not even the
daughter could be accepted as altogether pure. Parental and filial
feelings sufficed for nothing between them beyond the ecstasy of a
As Hester was standing mute, still holding her mother's hand, the
servant came to the door, and asked whether she would have her lunch.
'You will stay and eat with me, mamma? But you will come up to my room
'I will go up to your room, Hester.'
'Then we will have our lunch,' Hester said, turning to the servant. So
the two went together to the upper chamber, and in a moment the mother
had fetched her baby, and placed it in her mother's arms.
'I wish he were at the Grange,' said Mrs. Bolton. Then Hester shook her
head; but feeling the security of her position, left the baby with its
grandmother. 'I wish he were at the Grange. It is the only fitting home
for him at present.'
'No, mamma; that cannot be.'
'It should be so, Hester. It should be so.'
'Pray do not speak of it, dear mamma.'
'Have I not come here on purpose that I might speak of it? Sweet as it
is to me to have you in my arms, do you not know that I have come for
that purpose,--for that only?'
'It cannot be so.'
'I will not take such an answer, Hester. I am not here to speak of
pleasure or delights,--not to speak of sweet companionship, or even of a
return to that more godly life which, I think, you would find in your
father's house. Had not this ruin come, unhappy though I might have
been, and distrustful, I should not have interfered. Those whom God has
joined together, let not man put asunder.'
'It is what I say to myself every hour. God has joined us, and no man,
no number of men, shall put us asunder.'
'But, my own darling,--God has not joined you! When he pretended to be
joined to you, he had a wife then living,--still living.'
'Will you set up your own opinion against evidence which the jury has
believed, which the judge has believed, which all the world has
'Yes, I will,' said Hester, the whole nature of whose face was now
altered, and who looked as she did when sitting in the hall-chair at
Puritan Grange,--'I will. Though I were almost to know that he had been
false, I should still believe him to be true.'
'I cannot understand that, Hester.'
'But I know him to be true,--quite true,' she said, wishing to erase the
feeling which her unguarded admission had made. 'Not to believe him to
have been true would be death to me; and for my boy's sake, I would wish
to live. But I have no doubt, and I will listen to no one,--not even to
you, when you tell me that God did not join us together.'
'You cannot go behind the law, Hester. As a citizen, you must obey the
'I will live here,--as a citizen,--till he has been restored to me.'
'But he will not then be your husband. People will not call you by his
name. He cannot have two wives. She will be his wife. Oh, Hester, have
you thought of it?'
'I have thought of it,' she said, raising her face, looking upwards
through the open window, out away towards the heavens, and pressing her
foot firmly upon the floor. 'I have thought of it,--very much; and I
have asked--the Lord--for counsel. And He has given it me. He has told
me what to believe, what to know, and how to live. I will never again
lie with my head upon his bosom unless all that be altered. But I will
serve him as his wife, and obey him; and if I can I will comfort him. I
will never desert him. And not all the laws that were ever made, nor all
the judges that ever sat in judgment shall make me call myself by
another name than his.'
The mother had come there to speak burning words, and she had in some
sort prepared them; but now she found herself almost silenced by the
energy of her daughter. And when her girl told her that she had applied
to her God for counsel, and that the Lord had answered her prayers--that
the Lord had directed her as to her future life,--then the mother hardly
knew how to mount to higher ground, so as to seem to speak from a more
exalted eminence. And yet she was not at all convinced. That the Lord
should give bad counsel she knew to be impossible. That the Lord would
certainly give good counsel to such a suppliant, if asked aright, she
was quite sure. But they who send others to the throne of heaven for
direct advice are apt to think that the asking will not be done aright
unless it be done with their spirit and their bias,--with the spirit and
bias which they feel when they recommend the operation. No one has ever
thought that direct advice from the Lord was sufficient authority for
the doing of that of which he himself disapproved. It was Mrs. Bolton's
daily custom to kneel herself and ask for such counsel, and to enjoin
such asking upon all those who were subject to her influence. But had
she been assured by some young lady to whom she had recommended the
practice that heavenly warrant had thus been secured for balls and
theatres, she would not have scrupled to declare that the Lord had
certainly not been asked aright. She was equally certain of some
defalcation now. She did not doubt that Hester had done as she had said.
That the prayer had been put up with energetic fervour, she was sure.
But energetic fervour in prayer was, she thought, of no use,--nay, was
likely to be most dangerous, when used in furtherance of human
prepossessions and desires. Had Hester said her prayers with a proper
feeling of self-negation,--in that religious spirit which teaches the
poor mortal here on earth to know that darkness and gloom are safer than
mirth and comfort,--then the Lord would have told her to leave Folking,
to go back to Puritan Grange, and to consent once more to be called
Hester Bolton. This other counsel had not come from the Lord,--had come
only from Hester's own polluted heart. But she was not at the moment
armed with words sufficiently strong to explain all this.
'Hester,' she said, 'does not all this mean that your own proud spirit
is to have a stronger dominion over you than the experience and wisdom
of all your friends?'
'Perhaps it does. But, at any rate, my proud spirit will retain its
'You will be obstinate?'
'Certainly I will. Nothing on earth shall make me leave this house till
I am told by its owner to go.'
'Who is its owner? Old Mr. Caldigate is its owner.'
'I hardly know. Though John has explained it again and again, I am so
bad at such things that I am not sure. But I can do what I please with
it. I am the mistress here. As you say that the Grange is your house, I
can say that this is mine. It is the abode appointed for me, and here I
'Then, Hester, I can only tell you that you are sinning. It is a heavy,
grievous, and most obvious sin.'
'Dear mother,--dear mamma; I knew how it would be if you came. It is
useless for me to say more. Were I to go away, that to me would be the
sin. Why should we discuss it any more? There comes a time to all of us
when we must act on our own responsibility. My husband is in prison, and
cannot personally direct me. No doubt I could go, were I so pleased. His
father would not hinder me, though he is most unwilling that I should
go. I must judge a little for myself. But I have his judgment to fall
back upon. He told me to stay, and I shall stay.'
Then there was a pause, during which Mrs. Bolton was thinking of her
burning words,--was remembering the scorn with which she had treated her
husband when he told her that they had 'no power.' She had endeavoured
herself not to be sleepy in doing the Lord's work. But her seed, too,
had fallen upon stony places. She was powerless to do, or even to say,
anything further. 'Then I may go,' she muttered.
'You will come and eat with me, mamma?'
'No, my dear,--no.'
'You do not wish that there should be a quarrel?'
'There is very much, Hester, that I do not wish. I have long ceased to
trust much to any wishes. There is a great gulf between us, and I will
not attempt to bridge it by the hollow pretence of sitting at table with
you. I will still pray that you may be restored to me.' Then she went to
'Mamma, you will kiss me before you go?'
'I will cover you with kisses when you return to your own home.' But in
spite of this, Hester went down with her into the hall, holding by her
raiment; and as Mrs. Bolton got into the fly, she did succeed in kissing
her mother's hand.
'She has gone,' said Hester, going to her father-in-law's room. 'Though
I was so glad to see her, I wish she had not come. When people think so
very, very differently on a matter which is so very, very important, it
is better that they should not meet, let them love each other ever so.'
As far as Hester and Mr. Caldigate were concerned the visit had in truth
been made without much inconvenience. There had been no absolute
violence,--no repetition of such outward quarrelling as had made those
two days at the Grange so memorable. There was almost a feeling of
relief in Hester's bosom when her mother was driven away after that
successful grasp at the parting hand. Though they had differed much,
they had not hated each other during that last half-hour. Hester had
been charged with sin;--which, however, had been a matter of course. But
in Mrs. Bolton's heart there was a feeling which made her return home
very uncomfortable. Having twitted her husband with his lack of power,
she had been altogether powerless herself; and now she was driven to
confess to herself that no further step could be taken. 'She is
obstinate,' she said to her husband,--'stiff-necked in her sin, as are
all determined sinners. I can say no more to her. It may be that the
Lord will soften her heart when her sorrows have endured yet for a
time.' But she said no more of burning words, or of eloquence, or of the
slackness of the work of those who work as though they were not in
Curlydown and Bagwax
There had been a sort of pledge given at the trial by Sir John Joram
that the matter of the envelope should be further investigated. He had
complained in his defence that the trial had been hurried on,--that time
had not been allowed for full inquiries, seeing that the character of
the deed by which his client had been put in jeopardy depended upon what
had been done on the other side of the globe. 'This crime,' he had said,
'if it be a crime, was no doubt committed in the parish church of
Utterden in the early part of last year; but all the evidence which has
been used or which could be used to prove it to have been a crime, has
reference to things done long ago, and far away. Time has not been
allowed us for rebutting this evidence by counter-evidence.' And yet
much time had been allowed. The trial had been postponed from the spring
to the summer assizes; and then the offence was one which, from its very
nature, required speedy notice. The Boltons, who became the instigators
of the prosecution, demanded that the ill-used woman should be relieved
as quickly as possible from her degradation. There had been a general
feeling that the trial should not be thrown over to another year; and,
as we are aware, it had been brought to judgment and the convicted
criminal was in jail. But Sir John still persevered, and to this
perseverance he had been instigated very much by a certain clerk in the
Two post-office clerks had been used as witnesses at the trial, of whom
the elder, Mr. Curlydown, had been by no means a constant or an
energetic witness. A witness, when he is brought up for the defence,
should not be too scrupulous, or he will be worse than useless. In a
matter of fact a man can only say what he saw, or tell what he heard, or
declare what he knew. He should at least do no more. Though it be to
save his father, he should not commit perjury. But when it comes to
opinion, if a man allows himself to waver, he will be taken as thinking
the very opposite of what he does think. Such had been the case with Mr.
Curlydown. He had intended to be very correct. He had believed that the
impression of the Sydney stamp was on the whole adverse to the idea that
it had been obtained in the proper way; and yet he had, when
cross-examined, acknowledged that it might very probably have been
obtained in the proper way. It certainly had not been 'smudged' at all,
and such impressions generally did become 'smudged.' But then he was
made to say also that impressions very often did not become smudged. And
as to the word 'Nobble' which should have been stamped upon the
envelope, he thought that in such a case its absence was very
suspicious; but still he was brought to acknowledge that post-masters in
provincial offices far away from inspection, frequently omit that part
of their duty. All this had tended to rob the envelope of those
attributes of deceit and conspiracy which Sir John Joram attributed to
it, and had justified the judge in his opinion that Mr. Curlydown's
evidence had told them little or nothing. But even Mr. Curlydown had
found more favour with the judge than Samuel Bagwax, the junior of the
two post-office witnesses. Samuel Bagwax had perhaps been a little too
energetic. He had made the case his own, and was quite sure that the
envelope had been tampered with. I think that the counsel for the Crown
pressed his witness unfairly when he asked Mr. Bagwax whether he was
absolutely certain that an envelope with such an impression could not
have passed through the post-office in the ordinary course of business.
'Nothing is impossible,' Mr. Bagwax had replied. 'Is it not very much
within the sphere of possibility?' the learned gentleman had asked. The
phrase was misleading, and Mr. Bagwax was induced to say that it might
be so. But still his assurance would probably have had weight with the
jury but for the overstrained honesty of his companion. The judge had
admonished the jury that in reference to such a point they should use
their own common-sense rather than the opinion of such a man as Mr.
Bagwax. A man of ordinary common-sense would know how the mark made by a
die on a letter would be affected by the sort of manipulation to which
the letter bearing it would be subjected;--and so on. From all which it
came to pass that the judge was understood to have declared that that
special envelope might very well have passed in ordinary course through
the Sydney post-office.
But Samuel Bagwax was not a man to be put down by the injustice of
lawyers. He knew himself to have been ill-treated. He was confident that
no man alive was more competent than himself to form an opinion on such
a subject; and he was sure, quite sure,--perhaps a little too
sure,--that there had been some dishonesty with that envelope. And thus
he became a strong partisan of John Caldigate and of Mrs. John
Caldigate. If there had been tampering with that envelope, then the
whole thing was fraudulent, false, and the outcome of a base conspiracy.
Many points were present to his mind which the lawyers between them
would not allow him to explain properly to a jury. When had that die
been cut, by which so perfect an impression had been formed? If it could
be proved that it had been cut since the date it bore, then of course
the envelope would be fraudulent. But it was only in Sydney that this
could be ascertained. He was sure that a week's ordinary use would have
made the impression less perfect. Some letters must of course be
subjected to new dies, and this letter might in due course have been so
subjected. But it was more probable that a new stamp should have been
selected for a surreptitious purpose. All this could be ascertained by
the book of daily impressions kept in the Sydney post-office;--but
there had not been time to get this evidence from Sydney since this
question of the impression had been ventilated. It was he who had first
given importance to the envelope; and being a resolute and almost heroic
man, he was determined that no injustice on the part of a Crown
prosecutor, no darkness in a judge's mind, no want of intelligence in a
jury, should rob him of the delight of showing how important to the
world was a proper understanding of post-office details. He still
thought that that envelope might be made to prove a conspiracy on the
part of Crinkett and the others, and he succeeded in getting Sir John
Joram to share that belief.
The envelope itself was still preserved among the sacred archives of the
trial. That had not been bodily confided to Samuel Bagwax. But various
photographs had been made of the document, which no doubt reproduced
exactly every letter, every mark, and every line which was to be seen
upon it by the closest inspection. There was the direction, which was
admitted to be in Caldigate's handwriting,--the postage-stamp, with its
obliterating lines,--and the impression of the Sydney postmark. That was
nearly all. The paper of the envelope had no water-marks. Bagwax thought
that if he could get hold of the envelope itself something might be done
even with that; but here Sir John could not go along with him, as it had
been fully acknowledged that the envelope had passed from the possession
of Caldigate into the hands of the woman bearing the written address. If
anything could be done, it must be done by the postmarks,--and those
postmarks Bagwax studied morning, noon, and night.
It had now been decided that Bagwax was to be sent out to Sydney at the
expense of the Caldigates. There had been difficulty as to leave of
absence for such a purpose. The man having been convicted, the
postmaster-general was bound to regard him as guilty, and hesitated to
allow a clerk to be absent so long on behalf of a man who was already in
prison. But the Secretary of State overruled this scruple, and the leave
was to be given. Bagwax was elate,--first and chiefly because he trusted
that he would become the means of putting right a foul and cruel wrong.
For in these days Bagwax almost wept over the hardships inflicted on
that poor lady at Folking. But he was elated also by the prospect of his
travels, and by the godsend of a six months' leave of absence. He was a
little proud, too, at having had this personal attention paid to him by
the Secretary of State. All this was very gratifying. But that which
gratified him was not so charming to his brother clerks. They had never
enjoyed the privilege of leaving that weary office for six months. They
were not allowed to occupy themselves in contemplating an envelope. They
were never specially mentioned by the Secretary of State. Of course
there was a little envy, and a somewhat general feeling that Bagwax,
having got to the weak side of Sir John Joram, was succeeding in having
himself sent out as a first-class overland passenger to Sydney, merely
as a job. Paris to be seen, and the tunnel, and the railways through
Italy, and the Suez Canal,--all these places, not delightful to the
wives of Indian officers coming home or going out, were an Elysium to
the post-office mind. His expenses to be paid for six months on the most
gentleman-like footing, and his salary going on all the time! Official
human nature, good as it generally is, cannot learn that such glories
are to be showered on one not specially deserving head without something
akin to enmity. The general idea, therefore, in the office, was that
Bagwax would do no good in Sydney, that others would have been better
than Bagwax,--in fact, that of all the clerks in all the departments,
Bagwax was the very last man who ought to have been selected for an
enterprise demanding secrecy, discretion, and some judicial severity.
Curlydown and Bagwax occupied the same room at the office in St.
Martin's-le-Grand; and there it was their fate in life to arrange,
inspect, and generally attend to those apparently unintelligible
hieroglyphics with which the outside coverings of our correspondence are
generally bedaubed. Curlydown's hair had fallen from his head, and his
face had become puckered with wrinkles, through anxiety to make these
markings legible and intelligible. The popular newspaper, the popular
member of Parliament, and the popular novelist,--the name of Charles
Dickens will of course present itself to the reader who remembers the
Circumlocution office,--have had it impressed on their several
minds,--and have endeavoured to impress the same idea on the minds of
the public generally,--that the normal Government clerk is quite
indifferent to his work. No greater mistake was ever made, or one
showing less observation of human nature. It is the nature of a man to
appreciate his own work. The felon who is made simply to move shot,
perishes because he knows his work is without aim. The fault lies on the
other side. The policeman is ambitious of arresting everybody. The
lawyer would rather make your will for you gratis than let you make your
own. The General can believe in nothing but in well-trained troops.
Curlydown would willingly have expended the whole net revenue of the
post-office,--and his own,--in improving the machinery for stamping
letters. But he had hardly succeeded in life. He had done his duty, and
was respected by all. He lived comfortably in a suburban cottage with a
garden, having some private means, and had brought up a happy family in
prosperity;--but he had done nothing new. Bagwax, who was twenty years
his junior, had with manifest effects, added a happy drop of turpentine
to the stamping-oil,--and in doing so had broken Curlydown's heart. The
'Bagwax Stamping Mixture' had absolutely achieved a name, which was
printed on the official list of stores. Curlydown's mind was vacillating
between the New River and a pension,--between death in the breach and
acknowledged defeat,--when a new interest was lent to his life by the
Caldigate envelope. It was he who had been first sent by the
Postmaster-General to Sir John Joram's chambers. But the matter had
become too large for himself alone, and in an ill-fated hour Bagwax had
been consulted. Now Bagwax was to be sent to Sydney,--almost with the
appointments of a lawyer!
They still occupied the same room,--a fact which infinitely increased
the torments of Curlydown's position. They ought to have been moved very
far asunder. Curlydown was still engaged in the routine ordinary work of
the day, seeing that the proper changes were made in all the stamps used
during the various hours of the day,--assuring himself that the crosses
and letters and figures upon which so much of the civilisation of Europe
depended, were properly altered and arranged. And it may well be that
his own labours were made heavier by the devotion of his colleagues to
other matters. And yet from time to time Bagwax would ask him questions,
never indeed taking his advice, but still demanding his assistance.
Curlydown was not naturally a man of ill-temper or an angry heart. But
there were moments in which he could hardly abstain from expressing
himself with animosity.
On a certain morning in August, Bagwax was seated at his table, which as
usual was laden with the envelopes of many letters. There were some
hundreds before him, the marks on which he was perusing with a strong
magnifying-glass. It had been arranged that he was to start on his great
journey in the first week in September, and he employed his time before
he went in scanning all the envelopes bearing the Sydney postmark which
he had been able to procure in England. He spent the entire day with a
magnifying-glass in his hand;--but as Curlydown was also always armed in
the same fashion, that was not peculiar. They did much of their work
with such tools.
The date on the envelope,--the date conveyed by the impression, to which
so much attention had been given,--was 10th May 1873. Bagwax had
succeeded in getting covers bearing dates very close to that. The 7th of
May had been among his treasures for some time, and now he had acquired
an entire letter, envelope and all, which bore the Sydney impression of
the 13th May. This was a great triumph. 'I have brought it within a
week,' he said to Curlydown, bending down over his glass, and inspecting
at the same time the two dates.
'What's the good of that?' asked Curlydown, as he passed rapidly under
his own glass the stamps which it was his duty to inspect from day to
'All the good in the world,' said Bagwax, brandishing his own magnifier
with energy. 'It is almost conclusive.' Now the argument with Bagwax was
this,--that if he found in the Sydney postmarks of 7th May, and in those
of 13th May, the same deviations or bruises in the die, those deviations
must have existed also on the days between these two dates;--and as the
impression before him was quite perfect, without any deviation, did it
not follow that it must have been obtained in some manner outside the
ordinary course of business?
'There are a dozen stamps in use at the Sydney office,' said Curlydown.
'Perhaps so; or, at any rate, three or four. But I can trace as well as
possible the times at which new stamps were supplied. Look here.' Then
he threw himself over the multitude of envelopes, all of which had been
carefully arranged as to dates, and began to point out the periods.
'Here, you see, in 1873, there is nothing that quite tallies with the
Caldigate letter. I have measured them to the twentieth part of an inch,
and I am sure that early in May '73 there was not a stamp in use in the
Sydney office which could have made that impression. I have eighteen
Mays '73, and not one of them could have been made by the stamp that did
this.' As he spoke thus, he rapped his finger down on the copy of the
sacred envelope which he was using. 'Is not that conclusive?'
'If it was not conclusive to keep a man from going to prison,' said
Curlydown, remembering the failure of his own examination, 'it will not
be conclusive to get him out again.'
'There I differ. No doubt further evidence is necessary and therefore I
must go to Sydney.'
'If it is conclusive, I don't see why you should go to Sydney at all. If
your proof is so perfect, why should that fellow be kept in prison while
you are running about the world?'
This idea had also occurred to Bagwax, and he had thought whether it
would be possible for him to be magnanimous enough to perfect his proof
in England, so as to get a pardon from the Secretary of State at once,
to his own manifest injury. 'What would satisfy you and me,' said
Bagwax, 'wouldn't satisfy the ignorant.' To the conductor of an omnibus
on the Surrey side of the river, the man who does not know what 'The
Castle' means is ignorant. The outsider who is in a mist as to the
'former question,' or 'the order of the day,' is ignorant to the member
of Parliament. To have no definite date conveyed by the term 'Rogation
Sunday' is to the clerical mind gross ignorance. The horsey man thinks
you have been in bed all your life if the 'near side'is not as
descriptive to you as 'the left hand.' To Bagwax and Curlydown, not to
distinguish postmarks was to be ignorant. 'I fear it wouldn't satisfy
the ignorant,' said Bagwax, thinking of his projected journey to
'Proof is proof,' said Curlydown. 'I don't think you'll ever get him
out. The time has gone by. But you may do just as much here as there.'
'I'm sure we shall get him out. I'll never rest in my bed till we have
got him out.'
'Mr. Justice Bramber won't mind whether you rest in your bed or
not,--nor yet the Secretary of State.'
'Sir John Joram--' began Bagwax. In these discussions Sir John Joram was
always his main staff.
'Sir John Joram has got other fish to fry before this time. It's a
marvel to me, Bagwax, that they should give way to all this nonsense. If
anything could be done, it could be done in half the time,--and if
anything could be done, it could be done here. By the time you're back
from Sydney, Caldigate's time will be half out. Why don't you let Sir
John see your proof? You don't want to lose your trip, I suppose.'
Caldigate was languishing in prison, and that poor, nameless lady was
separated from her husband and he had the proof lying there on the table
before him,--sufficient proof, as he did in his heart believe! But how
often does it fall to the lot of a post-office clerk to be taken round
the world free of expense? The way Curlydown put it was ill-natured and
full of envy. Bagwax was well aware that Curlydown was instigated solely
by envy. But still, these were his own convictions,--and Bagwax was in
truth a soft-hearted, conscientious man.
'I do think it ought to be enough for any Secretary of State,' said he,
'and I'll go to Sir John Joram to-morrow Of course, I should like to see
the world;--who wouldn't? But I'd rather be the means of restoring that
fellow to his poor wife, than be sent to all the four quarters of the
globe with a guinea a-day for personal expenses.' In this way he nobly
made up his mind to go at once to Sir John Joram.
Sir John Joram's Chambers
Mr. Curlydown's insinuations had been very cruel, but also very
powerful. Bagwax, as he considered the matter that night in his bed, did
conscientiously think that a discreet and humane Secretary of State
would let the unfortunate husband out of prison on the evidence which he
(Bagwax) had already collected. My readers will not perhaps agree with
him. The finding of a jury and the sentence of a judge must be regarded
seriously by Secretaries of State, and it is probable that Bagwax's
theory would not make itself clear to that great functionary. A good
many 'ifs' were necessary. If the woman claiming Caldigate as her
husband would swear falsely to anything in that matter, then she would
swear falsely to everything. If this envelope had never passed through
the Sydney post-office then she would have sworn falsely about the
letter,--and therefore her evidence would have been altogether false. If
this postmark had not been made in the due course of business, and on
the date as now seen, then the envelope had not passed regularly through
the Sydney office. So far it was all clear to the mind of Bagwax, and
almost clear that the postmark could not have been made on the date it
bore. The result for which he was striving with true faith had taken
such a hold of his mind, he was so adverse to the Smith-Crinkett
interest, and so generously anxious for John Caldigate and the poor lady
at Folking, that he could not see obstacles;--he could not even clearly
see the very obstacles which made his own going to Sydney seem to others
to be necessary. And yet he longed to go to Sydney with all his heart.
He would be almost broken-hearted if he were robbed of that delight.
In this frame of mind he packed all his envelopes carefully into a large
hand-bag, and started in a cab for Sir John Joram's chambers. 'Where are
you going with them now?' Curlydown asked, somewhat disdainfully, just
as Bagwax was starting. Curlydown had taken upon himself of late to
ridicule the envelopes, and had become almost an anti-Caldigatite.
Bagwax vouchsafed to make him no reply. On the previous afternoon he had
declared his purpose of going at once to Sir John, and had written, as
Curlydown well knew, a letter to Sir John's clerk to make an
appointment. Sir John was known to be in town though it was the end of
August, being a laborious man who contented himself with a little
partridge-shooting by way of holiday. It had been understood that he was
to see Bagwax before his departure. All this had been known to
Curlydown, and the question had been asked only to exasperate. There was
a sarcasm in the 'now' which determined Bagwax to start without a word
As he went down to the Temple in the cab he turned over in his mind a
great question which often troubles many of us. How far was he bound to
sacrifice himself for the benefit of others? He had done his duty
zealously in this matter, and now was under orders to continue the work
in a manner which opened up to him a whole paradise of happiness. How
grand was this opportunity of seeing something of the world beyond St.
Martin's-le-Grand! And then the pecuniary gain would be so great!
Hitherto he had received no pay for what he had done. He was a simple
post-office clerk, and was paid for his time by the Crown,--very
moderately. On this projected journey all his expenses would be paid for
him, and still he would have his salary. Sir John Joram had declared the
journey to be quite necessary. The Secretary of State had probably not
occupied his mind much with the matter; but in the mind of Bagwax there
was a fixed idea that the Secretary thought of little else, and that the
Secretary had declared that his hands were tied till Bagwax should have
been to Sydney. But his conscience told him that the journey was not
necessary, and that the delay would be cruel. In that cab Bagwax made up
his mind that he would do his duty like an honest man.
Sir John's chambers in Pump Court were gloomy without, though commodious
and ample within. Bagwax was now well known to the clerk, and was
received almost as a friend. 'I think I've got it all as clear as
running water, Mr. Jones,' he said, feeling no doubt that Sir John's
clerk, Mr. Jones, must feel that interest in the case which pervaded his
'That will be a good thing for the gentleman in prison, Mr. Bagwax.'
'And for the lady; poor lady! I don't know whether I don't think almost
more of her than of him.' Mr. Jones was returning to his work, having
sent in word to Sir John of this visitor's arrival. But Bagwax was too
full of his subject, and of his own honesty, for that. 'I don't think
that I need go out after all, Mr. Jones.'
'Of course it will be a great sell for me.'
'Will it, now?'
'Sydney, I am told, is an Elysium upon earth.'
'It's much the same as Botany Bay; isn't it?' asked Jones.
'Oh, not at all; quite a different place. I was reading a book the other
day which said that Sydney harbour is the most beautiful thing God ever
made on the face of the globe.'
'I know there used to be convicts there,' said Mr. Jones, very
'Perhaps they had a few once, but never many. They have oranges there,
and a Parliament almost as good as our own, and a beautiful new
post-office. But I shan't have to go, Mr. Jones. Of course, a man has to
do his duty.'
'Some do, and more don't. That's as far as I see, Mr. Bagwax.'
'I'm all for Nelson's motto, Mr. Jones,--"England expects that every man
this day shall do his duty."' In repeating these memorable words Bagwax
raised his voice.
'Sir John don't like to hear anything through the partition, Mr.
'I beg pardon. But whenever I think of that glorious observation I am
apt to become a little excited. It'll go a long way, Mr. Jones, in
keeping a man straight if he'll only say it to himself often enough.'
'But not to roar it out in an eminent barrister's chambers. He didn't
hear you, I daresay; only I thought I'd just caution you.'
'Quite right, Mr. Jones. Now I mean to do mine. I think we can get the
party out of prison without any journey to Sydney at all; and I'm not
going to stand in the way of it. I have devoted myself to this case, and
I'm not going to let my own interest stand in the way. Mr. Jones, let a
man be ever so humble, England does expect--that he'll do his duty.'
'By George, he'll hear you, Mr. Bagwax;--he will indeed.' But at that
moment Sir John's bell was rung, and Bagwax was summoned into the great
man's room. Sir John was sitting at a large office-table so completely
covered with papers that a whole chaos of legal atoms seemed to have
been deposited there by the fortuitous operation of ages. Bagwax, who
had his large bag in his hand, looked forlornly round the room for some
freer and more fitting board on which he might expose his documents. But
there was none. There were bookshelves filled with books, and a large
sofa which was covered also with papers, and another table laden with
what seemed to be a concrete chaos,--whereas the chaos in front of Sir
John was a chaos in solution. Sir John liked Bagwax, though he was
generally opposed to zealous co-operators. There was in the man a
mixture of intelligence and absurdity, of real feeling and affectation,
of genuine humility as to himself personally and of thorough confidence
in himself post-officially, which had gratified Sir John; and Sir John
had been quite sure that the post-office clerk had intended to speak the
absolute truth, with an honest, manly conviction in the innocence of his
client, and in the guilt of the witnesses on the other side. He was
therefore well disposed towards Bagwax. 'Well, Mr. Bagwax he said; 'so I
understand you have got a little further in the matter since I saw you
'A good deal further, Sir John.'
'As how? Perhaps you can explain it shortly.'
This was troublesome. Bagwax did not think that he could explain the
matter very shortly. He could not explain the matter at all without
showing his envelopes; and how was he to show them in the present
condition of that room? He immediately dived into his bag and brought
forth the first bundle of envelopes. 'Perhaps, Sir John, I had better
put them out upon the floor,' he said.
'Must I see all those?'
There were many more bundles within which Bagwax was anxious that the
barrister should examine minutely. 'It is very important, Sir John. It
is indeed. It is really altogether a case of postmarks,--altogether. We
have never in our branch had anything so interesting before. If we can
show that that envelope certainly was not stamped with that postmark in
the Sydney post-office on the 10th May 1873, then we shall get him
'It will be very material, Mr. Bagwax,' said Sir John, cautiously.
'They will all have sworn falsely, and then somebody must have obtained
the postmark surreptitiously. There must have been a regular plant. The
stamp must have been made up and dated on purpose,--so as to give a
false date. Some official in the Sydney post-office must have been
'That's what we want you to find out over there,' said Sir John, who was
not quite so zealous, perhaps not quite so conscientious, as his more
humble assistant,--whose mind was more occupied with other matters.
'You'll find out all that at Sydney.'
The temptation was very great. Sir John wanted him to go,--told him that
he ought to go! Sir John was the man responsible for the whole matter.
He, Bagwax, had done his best. Could it be right for him to provoke Sir
John by contesting the matter,--contesting it so much to his own
disadvantage? Had he not done enough for honesty?--enough to satisfy
even that grand idea of duty? As he turned the bundle of documents round
in his hand, he made up his mind that he had not done enough. There was
a little gurgle in his throat, almost a tear in his eye, as he replied,
'I don't think I should be wanted to go if you would look at these
Sir John understood it all at once,--and there was much to understand.
He knew how anxious the man was to go on this projected journey, and he
perceived the cause which was inducing him to surrender his own
interests. He remembered that the journey must be made at a great
expense to his own client. He ran over the case in his mind, and
acknowledged to himself that conclusive evidence,--evidence that should
be quite conclusive,--of fraud as to the envelope, might possibly
suffice to release his client at once from prison. He told himself also
that he could not dare to express an opinion on the matter himself
without a close inspection of those postmarks,--that a close inspection
might probably take two hours, and that the two hours would finally have
to be abstracted from the already curtailed period of his nightly
slumbers. Then he thought of the state of his tables, and the
difficulties as to space. Perhaps that idea was the one strongest in his
mind against the examination.
But then what a hero was Bagwax! What self-abnegation was there! Should
he be less ready to devote himself to his client,--he, who was paid for
his work,--than this post-office clerk, who was as pure in his honesty
as he was zealous in the cause? 'There are a great many of them, I
suppose?' he said, almost whining.
'A good many, Sir John.'
'Have at it!' said the Queen's Counsel and late Attorney-General,
springing up from his chair. Bagwax almost jumped out of the way, so
startled was he by the quick and sudden movement. Sir John rang his
bell; but not waiting for the clerk, began to hurl the chaos in solution
on to the top of the concrete chaos. Bagwax naturally attempted to
assist him. 'For G---'s sake, don't you touch them!' said Sir John, as
though avenging himself by a touch of scorn for the evil thing which was
being done to him. Then Jones hurried into the room, and with more
careful hands assisted his master, trying to preserve some order with
the disturbed papers. In this way the large office-table was within
three minutes made clear for the Bagwaxian strategy. Mr. Jones declared
afterwards that it was seven years since he had seen the entire top of
that table. 'Now go ahead!' said Sir John, who seemed, during the
operation, to have lost something of his ordinary dignity.
Bagwax, who since that little check had been standing perfectly still,
with his open bag in his hands, at once began his work. The plain before
him was immense, and he was able to marshal all his forces. In the
centre, and nearest to Sir John, as he sat in his usual chair, were
exposed all the Mays '73. For it was thus that he denominated the
envelopes with which he was so familiar. There were 71's, and 72's, and
74's, and 75's. But the 73's were all arranged in months, and then in
days. He began by explaining that he had obtained all these envelopes
'promiscuously,' as he said. There had been no selection, none had been
rejected. Then courteously handing his official magnifying-glass to the
barrister, he invited him to inspect them all generally,--to make, as it
were, a first cursory inspection,--so that he might see that there was
not one perfect impression perfect as that impression on the Caldigate
envelope was perfect. 'Not one,' said Bagwax, beating his bosom in
'That seems perfect,' said Sir John, pointing with the glass to a
'Your eyes are very good, Sir John,--very good indeed. You have found
the cleanest and truest of the whole lot. But if you'll examine the tail
of the Y, you'll see it's been rubbed a little. And then if you'll
follow with your eye the circular line which makes up the round of the
postmark, you'll find a dent on the outside bar. I go more on the dents
in those bars, Sir John, than I do on the figures. All the bars are
dented more or less,--particularly the Mays '73. They don't remain quite
true, Sir John,--not after a day's fair use. They've taken a new stamp
out of the store to do the Caldigate envelope. They couldn't get at the
stamps in use. That's how it has been.'
Sir John listened in silence as he continued to examine one envelope
after another through the glass. 'Now, Sir John, if we come to the Mays
'73, we shall find that just about that time there has been no new stamp
brought into use. There isn't one, either, that is exactly the Caldigate
breadth. I've brought a rule by which you can get to the fiftieth of an
inch.' Here Bagwax brought out a little ivory instrument marked all over
with figures. 'Of course they're intended to be of the same pattern. But
gradually, very gradually, the circle has always become smaller. Isn't
that conclusive? The Caldigate impression is a little, very
little--ever so little--but a little smaller than any of the Mays '73.
Isn't that conclusive?'
'If I understand it, Mr. Bagwax, you don't pretend to say that you have
got impressions of all the stamps which may have been in use in the
Sydney office at that time? But in Sydney, if I understand the matter
rightly, they keep daily impressions of all the stamps in a book.'
'Just so--just so, Sir John,' said Bagwax, feeling that every word
spoken to the lawyer renewed his own hopes of going out to Sydney,--but
feeling also that Sir John would be wrong, very wrong, if he subjected
his client to so unnecessarily prolonged a detention in the Cambridge
county prison. 'They do keep a book which would be quite conclusive. I
could have the pages photographed.'
'Would not that be best? and you might probably find out who it was who
gave this fraudulent aid.'
'I could find out everything,' said Bagwax, energetically; 'but----'
'It is all found out there. It is indeed, Sir John. If I could get you
to go along with me, you would see that that letter couldn't have gone
through the Sydney post-office.'
'I think I do see it. But it is so difficult, Mr. Bagwax, to make others
'And if it didn't,--and it never did;--but if it didn't, why did they
say it did? Why did they swear it did? Isn't that enough to make any
Secretary let him go?'
The energy, the zeal, the true faith of the man, were admirable. Sir
John was half disposed to rise from his seat to embrace the man, and
hail him as his brother,--only that had he done so he would have made
himself as ridiculous as Bagwax. Zeal is always ridiculous. 'I think I
see it all,' he said.
'And won't they let the man go?'
'There were four persons who swore positively that they were present at
the marriage, one of them being the woman who is said to have been
married. That is direct evidence. With all our search, we have hitherto
found no one to give us any direct evidence to rebut this. Then they
brought forward, to corroborate these statements, a certain amount of
circumstantial evidence,--and among other things this letter.'
'The Caldigate envelope,' said Bagwax, eagerly.
'What you call the Caldigate envelope. It was unnecessary, perhaps; and,
if fraudulent, certainly foolish. They would have had their verdict
'But they did it,' said Bagwax, in a tone of triumph.
'It is a pity, Mr. Bagwax, you were not brought up to our profession.
You would have made a great lawyer.'
'Oh, Sir John!'
'Yes, they did it. And if it can be proved that they have done it
fraudulently, no doubt that fraud will stain their direct evidence. But
we have to remember that the verdict has been already obtained. We are
not struggling now with a jury, but with an impassive emblem of
'And therefore the real facts will go the further, Sir John.'
'Well argued, Mr. Bagwax,--admirably well argued. If you should ever be
called, I hope I may not have you against me very often. But I will
think of it all. You can take the envelopes away with you, because you
have impressed me vividly with all that they can tell me. My present
impression is, that you had better take the journey. But within the next
few days I will give a little more thought to it, and you shall hear
from me.' Then he put out his hand, which was a courtesy Mr. Bagwax had
never before enjoyed 'You may believe me, Mr. Bagwax, when I say that I
have come across many remarkable men in many cases which have fallen
into my hands,--but that I have rarely encountered a man whom I have
more thoroughly respected than I do you.'
Mr. Bagwax went away to his own lodging exulting more than ever resolved
that the journey to Sydney was unnecessary. As usual, he spent a large
portion of that afternoon in contemplating the envelopes; and then, as
he was doing so, another idea struck him,--an idea which made him tear
his hairs with disgust because it had not occurred to him before. There
was now opened to him a new scope of inquiry, an altogether different
matter of evidence. But the idea was by far too important to be brought
in and explained at the fag-end of a chapter.
All the Shands
There had been something almost approaching to exultation at Babington
when the tidings of Caldigate's alleged Australian wife were first heard
there. As the anger had been great that Julia should be rejected, so had
the family congratulation been almost triumphant when the danger which
had been escaped was appreciated. There had been something of the same